Newspapers + GeoMesh of Providers = Interesting

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In the olden days (1991) I earned a stipend-like salary working for a Gannett newspaper outside Philadelphia. I did a number of things there, some of them poorly (i.e. quickly copyediting stories on tax rate hike debates) and some well (writing headlines; teaching desktop publishing).

But one of the most fascinating jobs I got to do was man the Associated Press wire. On the old glowing-green terminals they had us looking into in the smokey and nearly windowless newsroom, the AP feed would pour in like a┬áprecursor┬áto The Matrix’s cascading code imagery.

I loved it.

Here was the world on a screen, constantly changing with updates and amendments and new hot items. It was hard to keep up. This was a semi-curated and realtime-edited shower of stories, stories, stories from everywhere in the world.

Before I saw it on CNN I read on the wire: “I see flashes on the Baghdad horizon” … the first Gulf War had begun.

This is all to draw attention to how little some things have changed. What was once the domain of a single decision-maker (me) per X-hundred-thousand people has become the oversight of practically nobody.

Consumers have their tools (RSS, email listservs, alerts, push apps…) and they have some level of control the other way (iReport and their ilk). But it has not all been brought together in a news consumer/provider mesh that includes them and the “traditional” outlets. These outlets, like the AP, Gannett and others, need very strategic execution around forming these alliances with readers and watchdogs, cranks, squeelers, tippers and staff reporters. And naturally the input is important as the location, so geo-context is a factor.

Dorian Benkoil writing for Poynter Online begins to get at some of these issues from the news gatherer perspective, I think one point slips by: the use of location as keep points of data for realtime information providers. Suppose a paper gives away an app that lets users deliver what they see as news with a click or two plus typed context and auto-location tags. This could be valuable. And app devlopers would be lining up to customize this to meet the local needs.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not the “Citizen Journalism” that was riding the white horse a few years ago before getting bucked. Consider this more of a joint effort. It’s working the mesh … the geo-mesh for better information for all.

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